North of Ithaka


Eleni Gage, a young journalist living in New York, left her Manhattan flat to return to the remote but beautiful Greek village of Lia in northern Greece and rebuild her ruined ancestral home. But this is not just another tale of quaint rustic DIY - the house was the scene of imprisonment and torture, and its ruins are stalked by the ghosts of the Greek Civil War. The story is played out in the stunning mountainous landscape of Epiros, one of the least-visited regions of Europe.

As Eleni becomes part of the village, her neighbours and the house come vividly to life while her own disasters, triumphs and self-discoveries are alternately poignant and hilarious. The cast of characters includes Eleni's formidable yet miniscule aunts - the thitsas, who fear that she will be eaten by wolves; her immigrant Albanian builders; and the residents of modern-day Lia, whose feelings about the rebuilding of a house where such terrible events took place are ambivalent at best.

Informed by her knowledge of Greece's folklore, literature, language and history, Eleni's story is unfailingly witty and wise but beneath it all lie the indelible stains of a real-life Greek tragedy.

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